Harbaugh: Hunter has chance for 'big year'

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Harbaugh: Hunter has chance for 'big year'

SANTA CLARA -- Kendall Hunter showed last season with a 4.2 yards-per-carry average that he can rush in the NFL. But there's more to being an NFL running back than picking up yards, and as offensive coordinator Greg Roman explained, Hunter is adapting nicely.

Hes really starting to understand all the different things that go into playing running back in this league," Roman said. "Which is more than carrying the ball. Its pass-protection, route-running, catching the ball, ball security and the special teams aspect of things as well.

Hunter seems to have a beat on the carrying-the-ball portion of the job. He appeared in all 16 games as a rookie, rushing for 473 yards and two touchdowns. And he's shown significant burst to the outside this camp, breaking off a number of large runs.

Pass-protection detail would seem to cause more problems for the under-sized back.

Hunter slipped to the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft in part because of his small stature, but as the smallest player on the roster at five-foot-seven and 199-pounds, he's making his presence felt in his second NFL training camp.

I feel like I have an advantage over big guys because I can get under them and stay low," Hunter said. "Especially when they come between the linemen and they cant see me."

Hunter is in a great place to sharpen his blocking skills. Blitz pick-up is a point of pride for starting running back Frank Gore. The five-foot-nine, 217-pound back regularly gives up six inches and 50 pounds to the linebackers he turns away in pass-protection drills.

The soft-spoken Hunter is taking notes. He watched as much of Gore's film as he did his own this offseason, and based on his coaches' comments, it's paying off.

The first thing that comes into my mind when I hear Kendall Hunters name is, Football player, Roman said. He loves football. He loves to get out there and compete. He always gives his maximum effort."

"I think just his instincts, his vision, both have improved," head coach Jim Harbaugh said. "It just seems the feel, the experience is there and in tremendous shape, very strong, running with a lot of confidence."

Ive never seen Kendall Hunter have a bad day or a bad snap where he wasnt totally tuned into football," Roman added. "Kendalls becoming more of a well-rounded football player. Were really glad we have him. He gets better every day.

Hunter, who is also listed as the team's No. 2 kick returner behind Ted Ginn, will need to continue to get better to retain the back-up running back role. The 49ers brought in eight-year NFL veteran Brandon Jacobs and drafted Oregon standout LaMichael James this offseason, creating a skilled and crowded backfield.

The 49ers will likely limit the number of preseason snaps for eight-year veteran Gore, and expect them to give extended second-half playing time to second-round draft pick James.

That leaves plenty of time for Hunter to prove the raving words of the coaching staff will translate into on-field production.

It remains to be seen how the four talented backs will split time in the regular season, but based on the praise from his coaching staff, Hunter will be a big piece of the 49ers' 2012 campaign.

As Harbaugh put it, "I think he really has a chance to have a big year."

Reports: Former 49ers wide receiver to visit Bills

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AP

Reports: Former 49ers wide receiver to visit Bills

Aquan Boldin is looking for a new football home.

And the former 49ers wide receiver is visiting with the Bills on Monday, according to multiple reports.

Boldin started all 16 games with the Lions last season, recording 67 catches for 584 yards and eight touchdowns.

From 2013 to 2015 with the 49ers, he racked up 237 receptions, 3030 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.

The three-time Pro Bowler will turn 37 years old in October.

Boldin entered the NFL as the 54th overall pick in the 2003 draft.

Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

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Taking a closer look at Ryan's criticism of Shanahan

There is no shortage of blame to go around for the Atlanta Falcons’ collapse in Super Bowl 51.

The Falcons built a 28-3 lead in the middle of the third quarter and let it slip away, ultimately falling to the New England Patriots, 34-28, in overtime.

Matt Ryan voiced one previously undisclosed factor in the collapse this week in an interview with Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, pointing the finger at the new coach of the 49ers.

Kyle Shanahan has been the focus of a lot of the blame, but critique from the league MVP was a new one.

The Falcons quarterback faulted his former offensive coordinator for taking too much time to relay the play calls. Ryan said he did not have enough time to change any of the plays – presumably checking out of called pass plays to run the ball.

Here’s what Ryan told Prisco:

"Kyle's play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in. As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you're talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, 'There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.' You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

"With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You're not being aggressive not running it there."

The 49ers can point to mismanagement of the clock for their own Super Bowl heartbreak. The 49ers’ offense had the perfect play call at the perfect time against the Baltimore Ravens late in Super Bowl XLVII.

But with the play clock striking :00, coach Jim Harbaugh was forced to call a timeout from the sideline. A split-second later, the ball was snapped and it appeared the quarterback run would have easily ended up with Colin Kaepernick in the end zone.

Much like after the 49ers’ loss, the Falcons left plenty of room for second-guessing.

Two of Shanahan’s plays calls, which directly led to the collapse, will forever be scrutinized.

The first came with 8:31 remaining in regulation and the Falcons holding a 28-12 lead. On third and 1 from the Atlanta 36, Shanahan did not remain conservative with an expected run play. He swung for the fence.

Receiver Aldrick Robinson, whom the 49ers added this offseason as a free-agent pickup, was breaking free past the Patriots secondary for what could have been a touchdown. But just as Ryan was unloading, New England linebacker Dont’a Hightower hit him and forced the fumble. Running back Devonta Freeman whiffed on blitz pickup, which would have provided Ryan with enough time to target Robinson deep.

Ryan’s explanation does not appear applicable on this play, though. In watching the replay, the Falcons broke the huddle with more than 25 seconds remaining on the play clock and the snap occurred with :15 to spare.

The other questionable sequence came after the Falcons – leading by eight points -- got to the New England 22-yard line with less than five minutes to play. The Falcons lost 1 yard on a run play on first down.

On second down, Ryan was sacked for a 12-yard loss. Before that play, the Falcons broke the huddle with :19 on the play clock. The snap occurred with :04 remaining. The game clock was running, so the Falcons had reason to attempt to burn as much clock as possible.

In the fourth quarter, the Falcons never seemed rushed to get off a play. The closest they came to delay-of-game penalties were when they snapped the ball with :04 on the one play and :03 another time. The majority of their snaps occurred with :10 or more seconds to spare.

If the Falcons were guilty of anything when it came to the play clock, it was that the offense did not waste more time. After New England pulled to within 28-9 late in the third quarter, the Falcons ran only six offensive plays while the game clock was running.

On those six plays, the Falcons snapped the ball with :13, :09, :14, :20, :13 and :04 remaining on the play clock. If they’d snapped the ball with one second remaining each time, they could have shortened the game by 1 minute, 7 seconds. The Patriots scored the game-tying touchdown with :57 remaining in regulation.